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Malawi Prison Band Loses Grammy, Maintains Hope

  • Lameck Masina

FILE - Members of the Prison Reform Band outside their makeshift recording studio at the Zomba maximum-security prison in eastern Malawi. (Credit: L. Masina/VOA)

FILE - Members of the Prison Reform Band outside their makeshift recording studio at the Zomba maximum-security prison in eastern Malawi. (Credit: L. Masina/VOA)

A Malawian prison band whose album was nominated for a 2016 Grammy Award in the Best World Music category did not win, but members hope they can make another run at a trophy in the future.

Members of the Zomba Prison Project Band spoke with VOA on Tuesday at the maximum-security Zomba Central Prison, hours after the winners were announced, and no one seemed depressed about the failure to win the Grammy. The local and international fame they gained for just being nominated compensated for that, they said.

Malawians watch a recorded broadcast of the Grammy Awards in Blantyre, Feb. 16, 2016. Multichoice Malawi, a film, TV and video business, organized the showing in honor of the Zomba Prison Project Band. (L. Masina/VOA)

Malawians watch a recorded broadcast of the Grammy Awards in Blantyre, Feb. 16, 2016. Multichoice Malawi, a film, TV and video business, organized the showing in honor of the Zomba Prison Project Band. (L. Masina/VOA)

Band leader Thomas Binamo said the nomination showed the world that there is talent in Malawi prisons. And inmate Chikondi Salanje said the talent the band demonstrated should make Malawi's president consider giving the musicians pardons so they can practice outside the prison.

Acting Chief Commissioner of Prisons Little Dinizulu Mtengano, who founded the band in 2008, thinks amnesty for the band members would be the best reward. (L. Masina/VOA)

Acting Chief Commissioner of Prisons Little Dinizulu Mtengano, who founded the band in 2008, thinks amnesty for the band members would be the best reward. (L. Masina/VOA)

Acting Chief Commissioner of Prisons Little Dinizulu Mtengano, who founded the band in 2008, said he supported this idea. “At least we [the prison band] have put Malawi on the world map, and the best reward to them [prisoners] is an amnesty to go home and enjoy with the family.”

But Mtengano noted that only the Malawian president has the power to pardon prisoners.

WATCH: Zomba Prison Project Band Nominated for Grammy

The prison band’s 20-song album, "I Have No Everything Here," was recorded in 2013 by American Grammy-winning producer Ian Brenner, who later gave it international exposure.

Many foreign journalists visited the band after it received its nomination. Here, French journalist Thierry Pasquet of the Capa Press Agency in Paris films the band in early February in its makeshift studio. (L. Masina/VOA)

Many foreign journalists visited the band after it received its nomination. Here, French journalist Thierry Pasquet of the Capa Press Agency in Paris films the band in early February in its makeshift studio. (L. Masina/VOA)

The album was competing with works from four international music stars for the Grammy: Ladysmith Black Mambazo of South Africa, Angelique Kidjo from Benin, Gilberto Gil of Brazil and Anoushka Shankar from India.

Kidjo won the award for her album "Sings."

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